Working in an environment of gratitude, appreciation, and support is key to avoiding burnout. As a dance teacher/studio owner, I sometimes felt like I had nothing left to give because my studio needed so much love and attention. When I realized that feeling more appreciated would make a big difference for me, I began actively courting an environment of gratitude in my studio.
I started with the students. First, I asked the dancers to applaud for each other when we performed in groups. If I had a dancer demonstrate a step across the floor, all the dancers were expected to erupt into enthusiastic clapping. If the applause wasn’t thunderous enough, I put my hand behind my ear and leaned forward as if I were slightly deaf until the enthusiasm was loud enough. If someone wasn’t clapping, I would run over to them and start clapping vigorously until they joined in. I also asked the dancers to clap when class ended and to say thank you on their way out the door. At first, I felt strange asking for appreciation. Then I decided that it was like any other classroom behavior I was trying to encourage. Hearing appreciation from the students made a huge difference in how I felt at the end of each class. I reminded them to do that for their other teachers as well.
Second, I began a gratitude campaign within the studio by giving out as much appreciation as I could (hoping this change would attract thankfulness in return.) I hand wrote thank you notes for absolutely every nice thing a parent did. If they helped out with the parade, they would find a thank you note handwritten by me in their mailbox one week later. I tried to verbally thanked my staff, the kids, and the parents every time I noticed something deserving. I left thank you notes and candy in my faculty’s boxes during holidays.
Third, I encouraged students to make cards or give a small gift or flowers to their teachers at the recital by including this idea in the recital packet. Many of the students began making a card of appreciation for all their teachers before each recital. Sometimes they would add in a Starbucks card, flowers, or another small gift. The teachers began staying after the recital was over to receive an overwhelming outpouring of love and appreciation from almost all of their students and parents. It was better than any thank you I could offer and it was an amazing way to end the year.
Growing gratitude at my studio took a little extra work, but yielded big results. It ultimately paid off in a great studio environment not only for my staff, students, and parents, but also for me.